Movement and Mental Health

As the pandemic continues, the rates of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression steadily continue to climb. During times of quarantine, while working virtually, or when managing a new schedule, it is easy to forget about adding movement to your day. Sedentary activities like watching tv, video gaming and computer work are dominating our current society while mental health is on the decline. One approach to lowering bouts of anxiety and depression, improving mood, and gaining an abundance of health benefits is by adding a few minutes of physical activity to your daily routine.

You don’t have to be a personal trainer to get your recommended daily amount of exercise. By adding a lifestyle modification such as physical activity, those struggling with their mental health may control or enhance their mood. Specifically, aerobic exercises are known to reduce anxiety and depression. An aerobic exercise is any exercise that requires oxygen, therefore, breathing is most important during aerobic exercise as it allows the passage of oxygen to muscles (especially the heart). Some common aerobic exercises like swimming, cycling, dancing, walking, and gardening are characterized as “cardio”. Anything that increases the heart rate qualifies as good mood-altering movement.

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Physical activity is responsible for improving cardiovascular health, stress relief, and for creating substantial improvements to both health and mood. The following is a list of benefits related to physical activity, health, and mood:

  • Improves sleep, memory, and mood
  • Improves cognitive health
  • Increases blood circulation to the brain
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Increases energy and stamina
  • Weight reduction
  • Cholesterol reduction
  • It is recommended that adults get 150 minutes of exercise per week which is equivalent to two and a half hours. This time can be spread throughout the week or divided between a few days. An easy approach to getting the recommended daily amount of physical activity is 30 minutes a day, Monday through Friday. Adding weekly workouts to your schedule may look like 30 minutes of rollerblading, jump roping, or water aerobics. No matter how you decide to enjoy physical activity each week, have fun and remind yourself of the many benefits that come along with an elevated heart rate.

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    If your day does not allow for 30 minutes of consecutive movement, take 5-minute movement breaks during zoom calls, while gaming, or during the kids’ nap. Another option is to wake up 30 minutes early to start your day with a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routine. HIIT routines are composed of multiple exercises to be performed at the highest level of effort for a few minutes each exercise. Doing so will not only help to boost your mood but will provide a boost of energy to start the day. There is no rhyme or reason to advancing toward a more active lifestyle; taking a couple of 15-minute breaks to go on a brisk walk is just as desirable as 30 minutes of jogging.

    As the days progress and the pandemic continues to surge, our schedules are becoming more unpredictable. In thinking of ways to preserve or promote a positive mood amidst all of the chaos, consider investing a few minutes of movement each day. Choosing physical activity that is enjoyable and approachable is a great way to reach your weekly physical activity recommendation while decreasing heightened levels of anxiety and depression.

    This article is written by Tramayne Richardson, Area Nutrition Agent, East Baton Rouge and Livingston Parishes. This article is referenced by LSU AgCenter, Center for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, and Boston College Cooperative Extension Service.

    1/13/2022 9:15:48 PM
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